Former Browns player Reggie Rucker sentenced to 21 months in prison

Posted at 11:13 AM, Aug 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-08-03 11:13:23-04

Former Cleveland Browns player Reggie Rucker was sentenced Wednesday to 21 months in prison for using charitable donations to help pay his gambling debt and personal expenses.

Prosecutors said Rucker stole more than $110,000 in charitable donations to anti-violence groups he led.

The 68-year-old pleaded guilty earlier this year to charges of wire fraud and making false statements to law enforcement.

U.S. District Judge Dan Polster also ordered Rucker to pay $110,841 in restitution.

Rucker served as executive director of Amer-I-Can, a non-profit in Shaker Heights, and president of Cleveland Peacemakers Alliance(CPA), an organization dedicated to resolve conflicts in Cleveland.

But according to the Department of Justice, from 2011 through February 2015, Rucker diverted funds meant to support Amer-I-Can and CPA for his personal use.

These funds were allegedly used to pay for his mortgage, entertainment, meals, travel, groceries and dry cleaning. 

The Department of Justice also reports that Rucker told donors that Amer-I-Can had and independent board to provide oversight, even though it did not.

According to records, Rucker withdrew $48,000 at casino ATMs in Tampa, Las Vegas, and Cleveland from the Amer-I-Can bank account from 2011 to 2015. He also allegedly paid gambling debts he incurred at a Las Vegas casino totaling $65,000 using money donated to Amer-I-Can and CPA.

In January 2013, CPA received a $150,000 donation from the board of a Cleveland area foundation. The complaint against Rucker alleges that he forwarded the email about that donation to a Las Vegas casino saying, "this is my non profit and they were a little behind getting me my money. I will not actually have this in my hands for 10 days, maybe 14 . . . I like to keep communication open so that I don’t get into any trouble. Can they work with me on this?” 

Other allegations against him include:

  • Writing himself two checks totaling $40,000 from the Amer-I-Can bank account after receiving $47,500 from a honor and using that money to pay outstanding gambling debt in January 2014
  • In November and December 2014, writing checks to himself totaling about $21,200 from the Amer-I-Can bank account and using it to pay $15,000 in gambling debt.
  • In January 2015, writing himself a check for $10,000 to pay the remaining $5,000 he owed to the casino.
  • Repeatedly citing CPA outreach workers' lack of pay to justify requests for additional funds